Warwick

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Warwick

Even though Warwick town is itself particularly lovely, the chances are that you will concentrate entirely on the castle. There is certainly enough to see and do in the castle and its grounds to occupy all the time you may wish to allot. It is owned by Madame Tussauds who have put an immense amount of work into ensuring that no visitor can possibly be bored here. There is always something going on - exhibitions, concerts, tournaments, jousting displays, wandering minstrels to serenade you, pottery lessons, medieval banquets, whatever it may be. There is also the castle itself, often called the finest medieval castle in England, with its fortified walls you can walk round, Guy's Tower which you can climb to command a view over the adjoining town, the dungeons, armoury and torture chambers and the magnificent State Rooms. There are permanent exhibitions about Warwick the Kingmaker and about the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1898. There are also splendid grounds, from the delightful Italian Gardens to the romantic landscape creations of Capability Brown. From the coach parking walk the group across the dry moat to the Gatehouse where you get the tickets. There are loos here, a shop and a restaurant. (There is another restaurant inside the main building.) Once inside allow the group to wander at leisure, making sure that they know all the possibilities. Staff are on hand everywhere to assist. Do encourage the grounds to explore the grounds a little if the weather is good. You need at least two hours here. The only potential problem with Warwick Castle is the huge daily flood of visitors. If at all possible get here as early as you can to avoid long queues to the various attractions.

Historical Background  It is possible that the original fortified settlement here was C10 Anglo-Saxon but the first concrete evidence for a castle here dates to the time of William the Conqueror. Soon after the conquest in 1066 William granted this land and the title of Earl of Warwick to one Henry de Newburgh. He created the original motte and bailey castle on the mound at the far end of the present day castle. His successors rebuilt the castle and enlarged its walls, so that little of Henry's original structure remains. (All but the foundations of the bailey are C13). Throughout the Middle Ages the political opponents of the Earls of Warwick were put on trial within the castle, then confined in the dungeons. Many of the prisoners were noblemen of high rank. This brought countless sieges, as one anti-Warwick force after another tried to capture the castle. Hence, the walls were made thicker and great defences added. Most of the castle as you see it now dates from the C14 when the earldom of Warwick had passed into the hands of the Beauchamp family (pronounced 'Beecham'), the 11th, 12th and 13th earls. These Earls of Warwick rose to massive political influence, first during the Hundred Years' War and then during the Wars of the Roses. The 13th earl was the man who executed Joan of Arc. Even more influential was their successor Richard Neville, known as Warwick the Kingmaker for his military strength, his brilliant politicking and his ability to put his allies on the English throne. After the murder of his son-in-law the castle passed to the Crown. In 1604 King James I gave it to the Greville family in whose hands it remained until 1978 when it was bought by Madame Tussauds. The Grevilles in the C18 and C19 were the people responsible for turning Warwick Castle from a military fortress into a great Stately Home, as you see when you visit the State Rooms or the landscaped grounds.

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